I can always remember being young and continuously saying to my Dad, “Daddy, I can’t wait until I grow up and I have my Monday to Friday 9 to 5 job, until I earn my own money, have my own house, drive my own car, pay my own bills”. My Dad is a very wise man and his answer was always the same to me, “Leona, the years when you are young are the best days of your life, you have no responsibilities, no money worries, why would you want to wish them away?”
A very powerful and moving question. Why do so many of us look forward to growing up, to becoming an adult, to having more responsibilities in our own lives? Why do we wish our younger years, our childhood away? When did we all become so conditioned that being an adult is ‘fantastic’, is ‘excelling’, is the ‘desired place’ to be?
For so many of us, this conditioning is what has happened. As we progress from children to teenagers to young adults and on to perhaps parents and grandparents, we lose that precious connection, that amazing bond with our own inner selves, our inner child. We tend to get caught up in the seriousness of life, of the everyday stresses and strains, the finances, the worries, the health issues, the fears of the future, the ghosts and pains of the past. We can become very serious in ourselves. We often wade or float through any given day on complete autopilot, just going through the motions. We sometimes forget to or don’t feel that we can pause, that we smile, that we can laugh heartedly.
Sometimes, the ‘adultness’ and ‘seriousness’ of life is just so consuming that it completely hi-jacks us and it becomes all that we know. The memories of being care-free, of playing outside or in our imaginations, of embracing the aliveness and buzz of playing sports, of keeping fit and active, of being able to fight and argue with one another one minute and then literally kiss and make up the next and forget that any disagreement even happened in the first place, of just letting our imaginations take us to a place of pure happiness, of joy, of excitement, of creativity, of fun, gets completely lost and left behind as we transition into this ‘amazing’ stage of adulthood.
How many times have we been told or even told someone else to ‘grow up’ and ‘cop on’ when we were younger? When you think about this, how does ‘growing up and copping on’ like adult’s sound like the perfect scenario? Why do we always think that adults have got life so figured out, that we have all the answers and that we always know best?? If this is the case, then why are so many of us struggling to keep up with the pace of life? Why are we always looking for ways to self-help and self-heal? Why do we struggle so much to see the beauty and simplicity of life, of what life could be like, if we could just move our conditioned thoughts and minds over to make way for the happy and adventure filled lives that we could all have, if we just let ourselves?
This is where the importance of recognising, respecting, nurturing and caring for the inner child or the little me comes into play. As I work with adults and children, I get to witness first-hand the beauty and simplicity of how a child’s unconditioned mind works. In most cases, everything is very black or white for children, it either is or it isn’t. Whereas, with adults, we tend to create and get over-run by this grey area, nothing seems to be black or white anymore. But who makes it that way? Who creates all these what if’s and what but’s? We do, us adults and isn’t it our responsibility to be all grown up, to always know best and always have the ‘right’ answer?
Absolutely not!!! I learn the most in my life from my own children and from all the other children that I am blessed to work with. I love to watch how alive they are in their present moment. They have such an incredible ability to be fully present in their moment and to view and experience that very moment with pure curiosity, wonder and joy. They don’t get caught up in thinking ‘oh I really want to do a cart-wheel walking down the street but what if anyone see’s me?’. They simply live their desires, their impulses. They do that cartwheel and they don’t really care who sees them or what other people think. They simply feel the adrenaline and excitement of being alive in that very present moment.
As adults, we seem to have lost this ability. Our own inner child could be screaming so loud, that they need to have fun, to be set free, to be care-free, to laugh, to skip but our adult conditioned minds tells us that there is an email that needs to be sent, there’s a phone call that cannot wait to be made, there’s a load of washing to be hung out, there’s a dinner to be made. This is how the bond or connection with our inner child breaks down. Over time, our inner child gets tired of trying to be heard, to be recognised and nurtured. Just like a physical child would get tired of trying to get the attention of their busy parent or guardian and eventually stops trying to communicate and feels unwanted and unloved, our inner child can react the very same way.
I always ask people who I work with to imagine a physical child coming to you craving attention, seeking love, guidance, security, fun, a physical and loving hug or embrace. Would you push that physical child away and say “no, I’m too busy being an adult and being caught up in adult stuff?”. I cannot imagine that you would. I always explain that I would take this little child safely into my arms and hug and embrace them so securely and assure them that I will help them with whatever their need is at that time or any time. I would leave this little child feeling safe, loved, heard and secure in themselves and in me. I explain that this is how we need to visualise our own inner child. We need to create this safe, secure, loving and heard environment for our inner child too. We need to look after and nurture our inner child just like we would a physical child standing in front of us.
What is the worst that could happen? We might feel more connected and truer to ourselves? We might have some child like fun and innocence in life? We might be able to let go of some of the ‘adult’ worries and business that’s ‘so important’? We might actually experience the beauty and simplicity of every moment in our lives? We might start to experience the adrenaline and aliveness of having fun, of letting ourselves go, of laughing until our sides hurt, of getting down on the floor with our children, nieces, nephews, grandchildren and actually experience life from the most amazing and simple viewpoint?
I have learned to and love to be silly with my children and to try and have fun and play with them and it’s incredible. I can remember just recently the excitement and amusement in my children when I asked them if I could go on a ‘play date’ with them! They thought it was hilarious and had so much fun planning out the whole day! I made sure to ring my husband at work to tell him that I was going on a play date with the children and that I didn’t know what time I would be home at! The play date was organised by the children to consist of an afternoon of bouncing on the trampoline, pushing each other on the tyre swing, on the normal swings, lying on the grass watching the clouds pass by, snacks and Mr Freeze ice-pops, adventuring around the house inside and out! It was the best fun I have had in years! My own inner child was truly alive and so fun filled in those few hours. I never knew there were so many types of knee bounces, leg bounces, belly bounces, bum bounces and we laughed and bounced so hard that we were all running in and out to the toilet all afternoon!!
I have also learned to embrace the silliness and fun of my husband when he comes home from work and barks and howls with the dog as the children are laughing so hard. I find myself giggling as I listen to him being completely off the wall and silly with the children playing and messing! It is as much a release and engagement for him with his inner child as it is for the children’s enjoyment in the moment.
If there is one relationship that needs to be recognised, heard, nurtured and enhanced throughout life, it is definitely the relationship with your own inner child. This is the relationship that will keep you feeling alive, that will help you to let go of all the adult worries that we place upon ourselves. It will enable you to relight and burn brightly the amazing child like ability to just live, to just laugh, to be silly, to have fun and most importantly to just be you!!
By Leona Mc Donnell Mindfulness and Wellness